4. Word of Faith
It is a fact that we will experience trials and tribulations, sometimes until death. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have pretty nice lives and others of us will spend our entire time on earth suffering. Charismatics don’t like to preach on that though. They say to speak the good things that you want into existence, because our words are powerful. Last year a charismatic woman I know was even praying for her sister to be raised from the dead! I really hate to criticize. I’m glad that she prays and has faith in God. And of course all things are possible. But I, in all sincerity, worry about the toll on people’s spiritual and mental health when they spend so much time and energy trying to build up faith for such miracles to happen, only to be let down repeatedly. It seems to me, that if a miracle is going to happen, it’s not going to take so much effort on our part.
I was at a church service once where a woman walked up to the altar for healing. The pastor said to the congregation, “If anyone here doubts that God is going to heal this woman today, I ask you to leave.” This is because if there is a doubter in the group then everyone is not of one mind and our prayers might not be powerful enough to heal her. I sat there thinking, Okay, I know that God can heal her, but most likely he won’t because in my whole life of attending church I’ve never personally seen a miraculous healing. But what was I supposed to do? Get up out of the front row and walk to the back door while everyone watches and deems me a doubter or a rebel? So I stayed. And she wasn’t healed. I guess it was my fault…
When my stepdad was badly burned in a house fire I tried to believe that God would completely heal him, because people at church told me to have faith that "By Jesus' stripes he’s already healed!"…Whatever that meant. They said, “I’m believing for a full recovery!” I just wish they would have said “I’m hoping for a full recovery.” That would have made so much more sense. We can all have hope. I remember crying out to God (in my mind, because I’m not a loud kind of person) and telling him that I know that he can heal him, but how am I supposed to have faith that he will, when I know that some people are never healed in this life? And then Matthew 8:2-3 came to mind:
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!" Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
I felt like God had illuminated his word for me. This man asked if Jesus was willing. The man didn’t say “Lord, I proclaim healing today!” He asked for healing, if it be his will. Charismatics regularly demand and expect healing from Jesus rather than innocently asking him to, if it be his will. And often, it’s not.
Today when I pray, it’s not stressful. I don’t try to muster up enough faith and believe that God will do what I ask. I hope that he will, but I also know that he might not. And that gives me more peace than believing that he will, and being disappointed that he didn’t because I lacked faith.
By now you may have assumed that I am a cessationist (someone who believes that the miraculous spiritual gifts are no longer for today). But I actually see no proof in the Bible that those spiritual gifts have ceased, and therefore I still lean toward a continuationist view. I am, however, extremely cautious and skeptical of those who claim to have such gifts and extraordinary experiences. I actually think that it may be impossible to determine from scripture how those gifts should be exercised and what they should look like. There are so many differing views on the gifts of the Spirit, and after having studied every Bible verse related to them, I am undecided on my views and doubtful that we can determine with certainty their function. I’m okay with that. It’s not essential to my faith.
I have not belonged to a charismatic church in eight years, and I probably never will. And I absolutely will not belong to a church which requires of elders and pastors “baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.” I would rather belong to a church that focuses on sound teaching, service, sacrifice, purity, and love, while also remaining open to the spiritual gifts. I have recently found a reformed church, which is also continuationist and I find that to be a great balance. The reformed theology keep the crazies away.
This is part three of a three-part series. Click here for part one and here for part two.